Lesson 2 of 19
In Progress

Different types of trail running

“Trail running is considered any run that takes place on an unpaved path that is completed outside in nature. Ultrarunning is running a distance further than the marathon distance.”

When reading this definition of trail running, you might have gotten the impression that literally every unpaved track equals trail running. And in theory it is, but in the trail running community we don’t see it like that. So lets dive in together into the different type of trailrunning that exist, from easy to more difficult ones:

1/ Urban trails

  • Run through city parks, greenbelts, or along riverbanks.
  • They offer a convenient option for city dwellers and can vary from easy to more challenging routes.
From National Geographic, Boston’s Emerald Necklace

2/ Gravel Roads

  • Roadways that are constructed with a surface composed of loose, small stones or pebbles
  • Depending on weather conditions, gravel roads can become dusty in dry weather and muddy in wet weather which might make them less accessible
Countryside in France

3/ Hilly Trails:

  • Hillside roads or roads with significant elevation changes, where the road ascends and descends along the contours of the land
  • Can inclide all kinds of terrain such as gravel roads, forest trails, … and can offer breathtaking views
Mittelweg, Black Forest, Germany

4/ Coastal Trails:

  • Coastal trails run along shorelines and offer stunning ocean views.
  • They often have a mix of sandy and rocky terrain and may be subject to tidal changes.
Coastal path in Japan

5/ Forest Trails:

  • Forest trails wind through wooded areas, providing shade and a serene atmosphere.
  • They can vary from smooth paths to technical routes with roots and rocks.
Forest in Germany

6/ Desert Trails

  • These trails are characterized by arid landscapes, sandy or rocky terrain, and extreme temperature variations.
  • Proper hydration and sun protection are crucial on desert trails.
Utah, USA

7/ Mountain Trails

  • Involve significant elevation gain and loss, providing a strenuous workout.
  • Mountain trails may take you above the treeline, offering panoramic views.
Matterhorn, Switzerland

8/ Alpine Trails:

  • Alpine trails are found in high mountain regions and may be snow-covered even in summer.
  • They offer a unique running experience but may require specialized gear and preparation.
Wallis, Switzerland

And inside the types of trail mentioned above, there are some more things to take into account when picking your trail running adventure:

  1. Singletrack Trails:
    • Singletrack trails are narrow, usually just wide enough for one runner.
    • They often wind through forests, next to the coast, through the desert and mountain/ alpine area, providing a scenic and immersive experience.
  2. Doubletrack Trails:
    • Doubletrack trails are wider than singletrack trails, typically wide enough for vehicles like ATVs or mountain bikes.
    • These trails are usually smoother and can be less technical and are mostly classified under gravel roads and sometimes hilly trails too (depending on the with of the path)
  3. Long-Distance Trails:
    • Long-distance trails like the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail span hundreds or thousands of miles. In Europe you also have long-distance trails that are a bit less long such as Via Valais, Tour du Mont Blanc, Tour de Monte Rossa, Eifelsteig, GR, …
    • These trails are typically multi-day endeavors and require thorough planning.
  4. Loop Trails vs. Out-and-Back Trails:
    • Loop trails start and finish at the same point, while out-and-back trails involve running to a certain point and then returning (for example a peak)
    • Each has its advantages and can be used for different types of training.